When I was first re-getting in to comics by raiding my college roommate's trade collection, one of my favorites was Kingdom Come. Alex Ross's art drew me in first, of course, but the dense collection of characters kept me locked in. This was pre-Wikipedia days, so I didn't have an easy source for "Who the hell is that?" research. I knew who the Bigwigs were, but the minor characters could have been formed out of whole cloth for all I knew.
One of the minor characters that appealed to me was Deadman. I loved the image of the skeleton in the loose tights performing the role of a sort of maitre'd to the deceased. I knew absolutely nothing about the history of Boston Brand and being a poor college student with beer to buy was not really able to go delving into his back issues.
Still, Deadman stuck with me. I like the idea of a superhero who became such after suffering through the tragedy that normally sets off others on the path to heroism when it happens to others. Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne didn't die, they just watched their families do so. Barry Allen and Vic Stone came close to death after their accidents, but didn't follow through. So that makes Boston Brand unique, if not a bit of a prodigy as normally you need to be a hero for a few years before your inevitable death and resurrection.
In my previous writing blog, now dead for over a year, I rebooted Deadman, sorta, as at the time he wasn't quite dead yet anymore due to the events around Brightest Day. I figured a character named Deadman should actually be a dead guy and not some resurrection delivery guy. So having dug up my old notes, let's revisit re-reboot Deadman!
Or should I say Deadgirl?
Madison Malloy is your average popular high school student. Bright, pretty, outgoing, all that good stuff. She moves in the popular circles, does student government, captains the school's field hockey team, has a nice boyfriend, and pretty much has a great life ahead of her. The only thing that really separates her from her peers is that she has two moms, but even that isn't really a big deal. Neither Madison, nor her younger half-brother Jake (their moms took turns being the biological parent), have felt any ostracism or hate or anything from their fairly liberal suburb of Keystone.
Anyways, everything is going great for Madison. She's been offered early admission to her first choice college (Metropolis U! The big city, y'all!), was elected class Vice President, has a decent part time job that's not in food service, and even inherited a car! Yay! But then Something Happens. Friends suddenly turn on her. Vicious rumors start circling, calling her a slut and a cheat. Teachers who would have backed her up and offered her support previously now roll their eyes and tell her to stop her whining.
There is some sort of scandal over the funds for a dance and Madison is blamed. Even though she is innocent, the school completely turns against her. She's stripped of her class office, her field hockey team refuses to have her as captain any more, and her scholarship is suddenly in doubt. Her boyfriend dumps her and starts to add rumors to the mill. High school becomes toxic and Madison is bullied left and right. Even the community seems to be turning on her, suddenly taking issue with her moms' lifestyle choice. This causes strife at home, the unspoken implication that the chance in opinion is fallout from Madison's behavior.
Madison's world is crumbling around her for reasons she can't understand. At first, she throws herself into proving everyone wrong, going out of her way to be even more helpful, even nicer, but that just seems to backfire. She tries to get to the bottom of things one-on-one with her friends, but they barely have time for her and certainly don't want to be seen with her. Even her brother backs away. She is alone.
So when Madison's body turns up, few are surprised. The community mourns the passing of a troubled teen, the loss of a great girl with so much potential. Some blame the high school bullies, but they just rally around the twin "well, it was her fault for being that way" and "we're just kids" defenses. Privately, they're shocked, whatever antipathy they had towards Madison fading, but their lawyers tell them to keep a united front if they don't want to throw away their futures too. Madison becomes just another high school suicide.
Of course, Madison didn't kill herself. Yes, she did drive down to the railroad tracks after a particularly bad field hockey game, but she did that all the time, just to sit and think and maybe cry a bit at the mess her life had become. One minute, she's turning off the car and putting it in park, the next....
But the more she flits around in the blackness, the more she starts to resent what has happened to her. She understands on some fundamental level that she's dead and that's not fair. Sure, her life sucked at the end there, but it's high school. High school always sucks. She had an entire life ahead of her, a life she could throw herself in to and never need look back. So when the Light comes, becoming her closer, offering eternity, she rejects it, turning away from it. No. She will get her life back.
And then she's back at the train tracks. She barely has time to notice her chalk white skin when a train approaches at high speed, barreling down on her. She throws her hands in front of her face, but the train just moves through her like she wasn't there. After it passes, she realizes that she's not standing on the tracks, but is floating a foot above them. There's a car idling by the tracks, occupied and waiting for the barrier to raise so it can continue on. Madison floats towards it, but the driver doesn't see her. Instead, he just puts the car in gear and drives through her like she wasn't there.
As the car nears, she catches a glimpse of her reflection in the windshield. Her blonde hair has turned black, her skin white. Shocked eyes have no pupils, just kohl-rimmed blanks. She seems to be wearing some version of her field hockey uniform, now turned red and black. She yells at the driver to stop, floating after the car and eventually overtaking it, even though it's going something like 35 mph now. She waves her hands, nothing. She tried knocking on the window, but her knuckles pass right through the glass.
Frustrated, she brings her arm down on the roof of the car. Suddenly, her field hockey stick is in her hand, its end glowing with a flickering reddish light and BANG it hits! Madison is shocked, the stick fades away, and the driver pulls over by the side of the road to see what happened. He just shrugs, assuming it was a rock or a bird or something that made that little dent, then continues on his way.
Madison drifts back to town, not knowing what she'll find there.
Deadgirl (#23/52) will follow the adventures of Madison Malloy as she attempts to discover the circumstances behind her death. Think Veronica Mars if Veronica was the one who died, not Lily. She'll slowly discover the extent of her powers - she's invisible and intangible all the time, can focus her will through her field hockey stick in order to move objects, and can even possess people, though this takes a lot out of her. She'll get some help from the living from her brother Jake, who can for some reason actually see and hear her (but only in reflections).
The events around her death will turn out to be mystical in nature, so when Madison notices the same thing happening to another girl that happened to her, she realizes there is a clock on solving her murder and bringing the guilty party to justice before another girl loses her life. Dark Angel is a ghost like Madison who feeds off the despair of young women in order to prolong her own undeath and fuel her power. Her schemes will reveal a larger ghostly world to Madison, so once she solves her own murder she'll have something to branch out to in later stories.